Dredd is an amazing sci-fi action/thriller that seems to finally get the character right. The action is incredible, the visual effect top notch and Karl Urban, given very little to work with, is effective in the title role.
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Action
Lionsgate | R – 96 min. – $39.99 | January 8, 2013
Directed by: Pete Travis
Writer(s): John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra (comic book); Alex Garland (screenplay)
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, Lena Headey
Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2012
Features: Featurettes, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1/11.1 Neo: X), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Disc Size: 43.0 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 4.25/5
With 30+ years of history, the Judge Dredd character debuted in the comic “2000 A.D.”, unfortunately in popular media he’s mostly only known for the 1995 sci-fi action-thriller Judge Dredd starring Mr. Jaw himself, Sylvester Stallone. Now 17 years later, Lionsgate has decided to reboot or retry at the series with Dredd, a dark action-er that, from a novice’s point of view (and from my reading, fans as well), finally gets it right.
The story opens in post-apocalyptic America, an irradiated wasteland where the population has been relegated to the Northeast. At the center is what was once New York City, now a megalopolis, as thousands live in slums and high-rise sh*tholes with their own little infrastructure and hierarchy within. The only thing keeping society from killing each other are Judges who dispense on scene justice. The biggest and baddest of them is Judge Dredd (KARL URBAN) who, when the movie begins, chases down three wanted criminals who are high on a new drug called “Slo-Mo”.
After apprehending them, and administrating sentence on each, he returns to headquarters where his commander wants him to take new recruit Anderson (OLIVIA THIRLBY) out on the streets to evaluate her as she’s a strong telepathic but scored just below on aptitude tests. Their first crime scene is a triple homicide committed by crime boss, and drug manufacturer, Ma-Ma (LENA HEADEY). Once inside, they infiltrate a room housing a primary suspect named Kay (WOOD HARRIS) which is no good for Ma-Ma who knows once taken for interrogation, he’ll spill the beans on her entire operation. So, going overboard as drugged-out, crazy ass crime bosses do, she locks down the facility and instructs that they will only open back up once the two judges have been take out. Now, one might ask why not just send someone to kill Kay, and the only answer is: there wouldn’t be a movie if they did that…
Now alone and without communication with command central, Dredd and Anderson are on the run from hundreds of baddies and nobody willing to help or else faced with Ma-Ma’s wrath. The judges must improvise in order to survive.
One of the things I loved about this Dredd adaptation is for the visual effects. Without going overboard, the effects teams are able to showcase this futuristic world with a certain sense of realism and yet also not have it overshadow the characters (see Total Recall for the opposite). Outside the city, the “slo-mo” portions are phenomenal and looks like something never tackled before which, similar to what was done in The Matrix, makes this film stand out from the rest.
Casting-wise, Karl Urban does a great job with really so little to work with. From having the helmet on for 99.9% of the film (the only show without is in shadows) to having no character background, Urban gives an admirable, and physical, performance which I doubt many actors would take on. One of the bigger complaints about the Stallone version is the fact that because of his star status, the helmet would be off for a fair amount of time and anyone who knows the comic, that rarely (if ever) happened.
In the role that serves as a guide for the audience, Olivia Thirlby performs admirably with both innocence and fear in the beginning to confidence and fortitude by the end. While she has a better background over Dredd, it’s still a bit on the superficial side, but by the same token, it’s just enough to give reason to root for her to make it through.
As the villain, Lena Headey is fantastic being totally bad-ass from start to finish. She’s pretty much akin to The Joker with a minimal background (mostly told) and her only purpose in life, and the film, is to gain more power and in turn, respect. She’s brutal and Headey effectively plays the part.
Directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Endgame), he presents a dark and gritty future which is hardly anything new (dating back to Blade Runner and perhaps further), and yet it still feels fresh thanks to his, and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), visual flair and experimental usage of different cameras. The film was adapted by talented writer Alex Garland perhaps best known for Sunshine and my favorite movie of 2010, Never Let Me Go.
Dredd is one of bigger surprises of 2012, a film which thankfully wipes out the memory of the Stallone version. The action is high-octane and the visual effects, and usage of various cameras, are some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. The movie isn’t without its flaws and if you’re looking for something with more character depth, you’ll most certainly be disappointed. However, if you like the character, from what I’ve read, this seems to be as close as possible.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.25/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover, underneath is a standard Blu-ray case. Unfortunately the features are sparse with only 42-minutes of footage and a fair amount of it is superficial.
Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd (14:27; HD) examines the history of the character, the city and comic book and includes interviews with the co-creators and others in the industry.
Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd (15:21; HD) breaks down the FX done on the film. While on the technical side, it’s still interesting to watch how the concepts were created and eventually put on the big screen.
Dredd Featurette (1:53; HD) is an EPK feature made only to advertise the movie rather than provide any insight (plus a good portion is just trailer footage).
Dredd’s Gear (2:31; HD) is another short featurette checking out the costume design and weapons for Judge Dredd.
The 3rd Dimension (2:00; HD) focuses on filming for 3D and how filmmakers’ wanted to push the boundaries.
Welcome to Peachtrees (2:33; HD) – This short featurette takes a look at designing the central location for the duration of the film.
Dredd Motion Comic Prequel (2:57; HD) shows the story, and the Ma-Ma character, before the events in the movie had transpired. It’s nothing special but worth watching nevertheless.
Theatrical Trailer (2:30; HD)
This release also contains a Digital Copy download via iTunes or the UltraViolet Digital Copy download code. Nice that there are a couple of studios that still offer the choice…
Previews – The Last Stand, Alex Cross, The Cold Light of Day, The Expendables 2
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Dredd rides onto Blu-ray with a finely detailed, albeit noisy, 1080p high-definition transfer (and MPEG-4 encoding). Presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio, I was fairly impressed with the picture quality between stark black levels which does not show signs of artifacting and the color array really pops off the screen since, especially during the slo-mo scenes, is purposely oversaturated. The 3D version, on the same disc, is excellent with some fantastic depth not to mention objects (like glass and blood) floating at or right by the viewer.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
Maybe even more extraordinary than the video is the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track — and for the few at this point with the set-up, a Neo 11.1 optimization — which really shows off the beauty of HD lossless audio that Blu-ray offers. The surrounds comes to life throughout with each action sequence with gunfire zipping by front and back, explosions envelope the room with depth and the center channel shows off for dialogue and central action. Right now, Lionsgate has shown itself to be on top in terms of HD audio.
OVERALL – 4.25/5
Overall, Dredd is an amazing sci-fi action/thriller that seems to finally get the character right. The action is incredible, the visual effect top notch and Karl Urban, given very little to work with, is effective in the title role. The Blu-ray might falter with the features but the video and audio transfers are both remarkable making this worthy of purchasing.